Saturday, November 9, 2013

My Gift by Guest Blogger Jen Conner

As I sit and reflect on the past 12 years,  I can’t believe that 12 years have gone by so fast. I can’t believe that I have been a mom for 12 years!  My name is Jen and this is my journey with Zach. 

I had a normal pregnancy for the first half and the second half well let’s say it wasn't easy.  I had low blood pressure that would cause dizzy spells and a few times became very faint.  At 32 weeks this baby inside me decided it was time to make his debut,  the doctors intervened and I was put on Procardia and bed rest.  At 36 weeks the meds were stopped and I was told to pack my bags.  Well low and behold the baby waited and he was born on his due date 4 weeks later.

When he was born I knew the moment he was brought back to me all swaddled up, smelling so good that something was different, a different I couldn't talk about because who would listen to a new mom who couldn’t really describe what she meant by “different”.

As Zach grew and met all his milestones I still knew deep down in my heart something was wrong.  He never slept; he really didn’t like food although he loved to nurse.  I nursed him until he was 18 months old.  He would sit for a very, very, long time with a basket of books and read.  He had words at 10 months old.  He said “mama” and by 12 months they were gone.

When he was 18 months old I joined my local moms club and would go on play dates.  Well I played with Zach upstairs with sliding closet doors while all of the other moms were I a group singing songs with their wee ones.  Zach hated any type of music so upstairs we stay.  Two of the moms talked to me after they got to know me and validated my feelings, validated what I have known all along was true……. My son was different!

These two moms I will forever be grateful for. They both are educated women who knew what autism is, what it looked like and they knew he and I needed help.  They guided me through the beginning steps and from there I learned a lot on my own.
When Zach was 2 he started speech therapy through early intervention. He caught on quickly.  During the therapy sessions he would fixate on the book One Fish, Two Fish.  He loved that book!  It became an obsession.  It was noted in his reports, the oddities of him were noted but yet they never once mentioned autism.  He was released from therapy in May.  Only 5 months of therapy I thought WOW, this is great He is done with this and we can move on.

We moved alright. We moved into a new home.  I never felt so alone in my life.  This was supposed to be a happy time and yet I knew we had a whole life ahead of us in this place called home.  With this home came endless walks through the neighborhood looking a garage doors, finding neighbors that allow this boy to open them with their automatic openers. Finding neighbors to become friends, finding neighbors who understood like my friends in the moms club did.  I found people, some good, some great, some not so good.  Some who I knew came into my life for a reason, those people I hold dear to my heart.

Zach on his 3rd birthday was officially diagnosed with autism.  It was those words that brought a relief and a sadness I never knew existed to me.  I hurt for him, I hurt for me and I hurt for my husband.  I researched looking for the why. Looking for what went wrong, questions unanswered.  Was it the medicine I had to take to stop preterm labor? Was it the Flintstone vitamins?  Was it my craving of cheeseburgers? Was it this? Was it that? What did this to my son!  I drove myself crazy. As time goes on you realize you did nothing but the best. You did what was right to keep your baby safe inside you.

A while later I became pregnant again, I never felt so scared in my life. I didn’t want this new life inside me to have autism so therefor I didn’t want this baby inside me.  I think God knew my fear for I miscarried that baby. My husband and I decided that Zach would be it for we wouldn’t want to chance having autism again.  Well again I find myself pregnant and was scared but not like before. We really weren’t ready but God’s plans are different than ours.

During my pregnancy the BIG question was “what are you going to do if this one has autism?” My response “WHO BETTER!!”! We have the best doctors, therapist and support.  We know what to look for and the baby would be closely monitored by everyone.  That new baby is perfect; he is more than perfect he is the piece of our puzzle that was missing in our family.  He is the best therapy that Zach could have.  His name is Andrew.   

Zach was at Good Shepherd 3 days a week and in school 2 days a week.  He was placed in a pilot program through the district where they took “high functioning’” kids like Zach and placed them in a regular classroom setting. This was the best thing we did for him.  He has been in the regular ed setting ever since.  Not full time but a greater part of the day.  He was pulled out for math, reading was never an issue.  He had a love of books early on.  We discovered he could read right after his brother was born. When Zach was in first grade his teacher would let him read to the class.  He loved school and everything about it.  He missed days only because he still didn’t sleep that great but with the help of melatonin he was getting better. We then realized Zach also needed help. He was a high anxiety kid.  The doctors said they could help and we agreed he needed it.  We put him on a small dose of Prozac.  We jokingly said this med really was “Pro Zach”. It helped him so much I wish we didn’t wait.  Zach was a different kid, almost typical…. Almost! He was able to be discharged from Good Shepherd, he was excelling in school and at home he was getting better too.  We thought wow let’s try to wean him off this drug and he did great until 4th grade.  He had such an anxiety that a child shouldn’t experience. EVER!!  So back to Good Shepherd we go, back on this med we call “Pro Zach” back to being almost typical.

Zach in 4th grade he realized that he didn’t want to pulled out for math anymore. He wants to stay with his friends. It is then he becomes his own self advocate. He has a voice and he lets it be heard. From October until February he fights for something he feels he is ready for, to be fully mainstreamed. To be in the regular math class, to be with, to be with the coolest teacher in school.  He finally gets through to the teachers after 4 months of fighting.  They comply. He won his first of many battles that will come his way, I sign a release for him to be fully mainstreamed and we have never looked back.  He is thriving and learning what he needed to learn. Something new and challenging and he got A’s.

This boy still struggles in one area he can’t seem to get over this hurdle. FOOD! It is still a reminder that he is different, he cannot handle eating meat, pasta, vegetables, eggs, and peanut butter…… the list is endless. We were introduced to a product Juice Plus. It is a simple product, fruits and veggies in a capsule or a gummies. He loves it, his body needed this simple nutrition and he gained some much needed weight and we were able to lower his dose of “Pro Zach”. He is willing to help cook food and wants to try foods since he started Juice Plus.

As I am writing this I cannot believe this boy my son is in middle school. We just had the best IEP meeting. We were able to remove monthly math probes and adjust his behavioral plan. This kid has a long way to go but I can tell you he has a drive, a determination, a goal! He is an inspiration to all that know him.  His teacher says “he is a positive influence “in the classroom and around the school. This boy is 12 today and he has made me one of the luckiest moms in the world. Zach wrote this :
My Gift

Zach you are by far the best gift, you own your autism.  You my son will always be my biggest inspiration and I will always be your #1 FAN!

I love you buddy HAPPY 12th BIRTHDAY!!!!!!

Friday, November 8, 2013

2013 GJOP Parents Toy Review

2013 GJOP Parents Toy Review

The following toys have been discussed on the Grape Jelly on Pizza Facebook page for support with autism.  Each toy can also be searched for better prices and many have multiple sets to choose from. These particular links show what the toy looks like and doesn't in any way suggest you must purchase the toy from the particular store/site.  Enjoy!!

Building Games and Sets
Marble Run
Laser Pegs Light Up Building Sets
Geomag Construction Set
Magneatos Building Set
Cardboard Building Blocks
Mega Bloks Deluxe Building Set 
Lego Duplo Blocks 
Magna Tiles
Crazy Bubbles
Build A Road
Knex Atomic Coaster
Mr. Potato Head
Ogre & Monsters 

Table Games & Board Games
Train Table
Make N Break - board game
Don't Break the Ice - board game
The Very Hungry Caterpillar game

Sensory Activities & Lighting & Equipment
Play-Doh sets
Mini Massager 
Light Doodler
Light-Up Funny Face Balls
Remote Control LED Light Strip
Spinning Top
Giant Pea Pod
 6' Bean Bag Chair aka Crash Pad
Cuddle Swing
Hammer Away!
Walkie Talkie
Puppet on a Stick
Twilight Animals
Play Parachute
Incred a ball 

 Educational Toys and Books
Tag Reading System
Tag Junior Reading System 
Point to Happy - book
Letter Construction Activity Set
Little People Play Sets
Three Little Pigs Play Set
Wind-up Plane Book

Remote Control Toys
Bumper Cars 

Gifts for Adults
Talking Sheldon Doll
Puzzle of Life frame
Why I Jump book

Hope you enjoy our toy suggestions.

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Story of Hope by Guest Blogger Brittnee Dupre

There are no words to convey how proud I am of my sweet baby Gavin! And I would like to share my story to give some hope out there to other moms feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

It all started when Gavin was about 18 months. Gavin started showing some strange signs. He never wanted to be cuddled, he didn't show affection, things that he had previously learned (abc's, hello, goodbye, nursery songs) had now vanished, he would throw a tantrum causing harm to himself (banging his head on what ever he could find, kicking screaming), no eye contact, picky eater and parroting. I spoke with specialist immediately, and by a little under two years old our sweet baby boy was diagnosed on the spectrum for autism.

I prepared myself for the worst when going into the meeting, but still couldn't hold back the tears when sitting with his doctors. I blamed myself for a long time, maybe I didn't talk to him enough, or maybe I got pregnant (with my second child, they are two years apart) to soon, or maybe I didn't hold and cuddle enough with him when he was a baby. When I came to terms, right after Gavin's second birthday, we started some in-home therapy and attended a hearing and speech center once a week for social skills. Gavin would pick up some things here and there but wasn't learning as fast as before 18 months nor as fast as his peers.

I can say now looking back two years ago, he is now four and attends a pre-k class in elementary school (with kindergarten based) and is doing amazing! Things we thought he wasn't retaining slip out each day! He is almost talking full sentences, he no longer throws such horrible tantrums, he is learning to follow directions well, he now makes eye contact most of the time, he will eat most of whatever we put in front of him (with a slight fight/ a little convincing), parroting is almost all gone, Gavin now kisses and hugs every single person and I JUST CUDDLED MY BABY TO SLEEP!!!

I hope my story in some way can help those of you having one of "those" days. And we still have them as well, but sometimes we have to take a second and look at how far we have come And I guarantee you that if you do that, you will feel as proud as I do!

Gavin was about 17/18 months when we noticed signs and on the right us Gavin today.